Legal Memorandum: Personal Jurisdiction over a Defendant

Issue: Under Wyoming law, when can a court exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a contract and negligence action?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Personal jurisdiction; Motions to dismiss
Jurisdiction: Wyoming
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 12/01/2014

Where personal jurisdiction is in dispute, it must be resolved before the matter can proceed.  See Black Diamond Energy Partners 2001-A Ltd. v. S&T Bank, 278 P.3d 738, 742 (Wyo. 2012). The district court has considerable discretion in determining the means to decide a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.  See id.; Cheyenne Publ’g, L.L.C. v. Starostka, 94 P.3d 463, 469 (Wyo. 2004).  “The court may determine the matter on the basis of pleadings and other materials called to its attention; it may require discovery; or it may conduct an evidentiary hearing.” Cheyenne Publ’g, 94 P.2d at 469. When the underlying facts are undisputed, the existence of personal jurisdiction is a matter of law.  Id.  If the district court’s determination is made without an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff must show only a prima facie case to defeat the motion to dismiss. Robinson v. U-Haul Int’l Inc., 929 P.2d 1236, 1238 (Wyo. 1997).  But “[w]hen material factual allegations regarding jurisdiction in the affidavits cannot be harmonized, the district court should hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the issue of jurisdiction.”  Cheyenne Publ’g, 94 P.3d at 469.

The District court must view the allegations in the pleadings and documentary evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, resolving all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id.